Many of you who have visited this beautiful county will agree that Clare is a place of plentiful breath taking views with the scenery ranging from rolling countryside, craggy Atlantic coastlines and rocky wildernesses. It cannot seem to make it up its mind so you will never be bored driving the coastal route or bi-roads in Clare. This is the place for amazing beaches, giant surfing waves and the most unique and adventurous wild swimming spots in Ireland so here is our guide for staycations in Clare!
I try to make a trip to Clare every year or so as I am fond of it and for me it is the home of traditional Irish music and while on my most recent trip I did miss the music I discovered the joys of the great the Atlantic Ocean and the kids popping in and out of the sea at a whim in all weathers now that there are a little older and more confident swimmers.
Family Friendly Accommodation
We stayed in Green Acres campsite in Kilkee. It is a quite site about ten minutes from Kilkee town by car and while it does not have a playground, it does have its own private shingle beach and that was our playground! We recanted a mobile home but alternatively you can pitch a tent or roll up in a touring caravan.
Clare is home to many, many campsites and you find out more in the link here!
If campsites are not your thing, The Inn at Dromoland is one of Clare’s best loved family hotels as it has an indoor playcentre, swimming pool, foot golf, tennis courts and crazy golf. They have a fab selection of large family rooms. Best of all you can take a short walk through the grounds to Dromoland Castle, if you want to treat yourself!
Family Friendly Activities
Our nearest beach was Kilkee and the traditional horseshoe sandy beach is what this town is famous for. In fact the town itself is a Victorian seaside town created just over 200 years ago for trips to the seaside. It is a typical seaside town with a bustling yet safe beach. On one end you have the harbour and the other Nevsail Watersports run their sea activities.
From here you can join an evening Kayak daily at 4.30 pm for approx. 1.5 hours for €25 pp which will take you on a sightseeing tour, explore caves and coves, kayak around inlets, headlands and cliffs around Kilkee Bay depending on the weather. Thomas and Craig (my other half) were in a joint canoe while Saoirse went in a single. However, the winds were strong that day so she had to be towed at one point so I would suggest a double or a triple. They just loved this activity and I was sorry we had not made time for more. They also do surfing and coasteering from here and offer daily and weekly water camps. We are hopefully going to try the coasteering the next time we are in town!
Just a short walk from the beach are The Pollock Holes, a famous bathing spot in Kilkee. The three large, natural rock pools offer safe and sheltered swimming, in which the sea water is refreshed with every tide. This was the highlight of the trip for us would you believe. The kids would often jump in here at the end of a day touring on our way home no matter what the weather. They never watched or took notice of the tide times so much! While the older two were splashing about, I took Lonán (my four year old) crab fishing and foraging. You will see plenty of families doing this and can even buy buckets for this activity alone in the local shops. There was so much life in the little pools and holes that we had plenty of excitement and often a bit apprehension of the crab discoveries.
From here you can head along the coastal route of Loophead and all along the way, there are walks, viewing points and hidden swimming spots so take some time here. We saw many families cycling this route as it is quite a safe road. Martin Haugh of Loop Head Walking Tours has some fantastic ideas for walks along here.
The Loophead Lighthouse is closed at the moment for tours but you can still walk up to it and there is a lovely 1 hour walk out around the lighthouse and the head of the peninsula. At the tip of the peninsula is the word ‘EIRE‘ in large, whitewashed letters. One of the 83 such signs along the Irish coast, alerting pilots that they were entering neutral airspace in the years of world war two. You are probably better to drive here as it is a long cycle from Kilkee. On the way here you may look out for the bridges of ross is a natural sea arch and one of the points on the wild Atlantic way. They are a short walk from the carpark and again a spectacular setting.
West Coast Waterpark in based in Kilrush and here you can bounce, slide and jump around the obstacle course made up of 5 islands including a swing. We have done a few of these but by far this is the best one we have come across to date. My two absolutely loved it and even though Craig was wiped out after he had a ball. The course is protected from choppy currents and strong winds as it is actually in the Shannon river just in from the sea so I think that is why the kids found it easier to move on and off themselves. There have a fab offer at the moment with a ticket for a family of 4 for €69 and a family of five for €79.
You can’t go to Clare without taking the coastal route up along Lahinch towards Liscannor and The Cliffs of Mohar. There is no better time to visit the cliffs as the crowds are much smaller than normal. We have been a few times and my kids and I are still in awe of their sheer beauty and scale. On this visit there was a friendly steward at the door to O’Brien’s tower who gave us a fantastic insight to the tower and most importantly the cave that features in Harry Potter and the half blood prince. The exhibition is open also and it is worth a wonder through as there is an interactive kids section and mine loved the video. Continue the road up towards the pretty village of Doolin and Gus O’Connors is a great stop off for food.
The Aillwee Caves & Birds of Prey centre is always a must for us when in these parts as they never tire of the birds of prey centre with different birds featuring every time we are there. You would want to pencil in a good day here as there is so much to do. Start with the birds of prey at the bottom. Take the woodland walk to the top and a tour of the cave. Then come out and take in those views before finding a picnic spot in this area or in the woods. The cave tour takes approx. 30 mins and it was really well organized. Social distancing was kept at all times on the tour with designated spots signposted at each viewing area. The tour itself is excellent and I always find their guides so engaging with the children and their constant questions. Click here for more information.
Finally coming from Cork we never get tired of breaking the journey at Bunratty Castle. Again, the crowds are a little less at the moment so we found it very enjoyable. Only one family unit was allowed in each house at any one time but you were only every waiting a few minutes. I do love Bunratty and even though it has changed so much since I was a kid with the playgrounds, woodland walks and animals, I find it quite nostalgic. The houses themselves seem to fascinate my older two and they find it hard to imagine they were once real life. The castle was open with limited access and capacity but it was still very enjoyable and quite safe in the current climate as a one way system was in place.
Where to Eat
The Long Dock in Carrigaholt is amazing, with many awards lining the walls as a result. We ate here quite a few times over the week as they did great gluten free options, were quite reasonably priced and very roomey. More info!
Nolan’s on the main street of Kilkee do an excellent fish and chips which you order from a hatch outside. They also have gluten free options.
If you are in the Lahinch/Liscannor region, there is a fab mobile fish and chip van park in the grounds of Mohar Cottage. It is only about 10 mins from The Cliffs of Mohar and here they are famous for the fish and chips (lobster in particular) and the have been awarded best coffee in Ireland. The views are pretty amazing too.
Gus O’Connors in Doolin is also a particular favourite of ours not only for the atmosphere but the food speaks for itself.
Around Loophead and Kilkee the weather was not the kindest to us as while you had the heat some days there was all too often a mist coming in from the sea. I did find that North Clare and towards Ennis seemed to have a more favourable climate.
Loophead has one of the most unforgiving yet stunning coastlines I have ever come across and even the children will be blown away so it is well worth a trip for this alone!
What the kids said about Clare
I want to go back again to swim in the Pollock Holes; it was the best thing we did this summer!
in the Pollock Holes; it was the best thing we did this summer!